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St. Gelasius Church 

6401-09 S. Woodlawn Ave. 

Preliminary Landmark recommendation approved by 

the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, September 4, 2003 

Richard M. Daley, Mayor 

Department of Planning and Development 
Alicia Mazur Berg, Commissioner 

i u 1 r 

Cover: St. Gelasius Church is a handsome Renaissance Revival-style building with a 
visually striking bell tower (left). The building is detailed with finely crafted stone orna- 
ment, including (right top) acanthus leaf-embellished capitals and (right bottom) a medal- 
lion bearing a carved image of the building itself. 

Above: The St. Gelasius Church building is located on the southeast corner of S. 
Woodlawn Ave. and E. 64th St. in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. 

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks, whose nine members are appointed by the Mayor, was 
established in 1968 by city ordinance. The Commission is responsible for recommending to the City 
Council which individual buildings, sites, objects, or districts should be designated as Chicago Land- 
marks, which protects them by law. 

The landmark designation process begins with a staff study and a preliminary summary of 
information related to the potential designation criteria. The next step is a preliminary vote by the 
landmarks commission as to whether the proposed landmark is worthy of consideration. This vote not 
only initiates the formal designation process, but it places the review of city permits for the property under 
the jurisdiction of the Commission until a final landmark recommendation is acted on by the City Council. 

This Landmark Designation Report is subject to possible revision and amendment during the 
designation process. Only language contained within the designation ordinance adopted by the City 
Council should be regarded as final. 

St. Gelasius Church 

(originally St. Clara Church) 
6401-09 S. Woodlawn Ave. 

Built: 1923-1928 

Architects: Henry J. Schlacks 

Historic church and synagogue buildings are often important visual anchors for Chicago's 
neighborhoods, with their monumental scale, prominent siting, elaborate architectural design and 
fine detail in marked contrast to typically smaller and less ornate surrounding neighborhood 
residential and commercial buildings. St. Gelasius Church, a Roman Catholic church building 
located in the South Side neighborhood of Woodlawn, has been a visual "landmark" in that 
community for 80 years. 

Originally known as St. Clara Church, St. Gelasius Church is a visually impressive church 
building in the Renaissance Revival style, boasting finely-scaled facades embellished with 
Classical columns, door and window surrounds, low-relief sculpture, free-standing rooftop 
statues, and 120-foot-high bell tower. The Classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, 
along with its reinterpretations in Italy, France, England, and Germany during the 1 5 th through 
1 9 th centuries, became the basis for several inter-related revivalist architectural styles, including 
the Renaissance Revival, that were important in the United States in general and Chicago in 
particular during the late 1 9 th and early 20 th centuries. Influential buildings such as the Boston 
Public Library (1 888-95, McKim, Mead, & White) and those making up the grandly-scaled 
1 894 World's Columbian Exposition here in Chicago encouraged an "American Renaissance" 
that saw the construction of impressive classically-inspired buildings for American government 
agencies, libraries, museums, and churches through the 1920s. In Chicago, the Renaissance 

Revival style was especially important in its use for several prominent churches, including St. 
Gelasius, reflecting the style's associations with both the origins and development of large-scale 
church architecture in Italy and the long-time use of classically-inspired architecture for Roman 
Catholic churches both in Europe and the United States. 

The St. Gelasius Church building is the work of architect Henry J. Schlacks, a noted Chicago 
designer of churches and other religious buildings. During a career that spanned four decades, 
Schlacks designed more than two dozen churches, including some of Chicago's finest. Chicago 
church historian Edward R. Kantowicz considered Schlacks "the master of Catholic church 
architecture in Chicago" for the beauty of his buildings, designing impressive structures for, 
among others, St. Paul, St. Mary of the Lake, St. Adalbert, St. Henry, St. Boniface, St. 
Ignatius, and St. Ita churches. 

Building Construction and Description 

During the 19 th century, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago grew rapidly, 
building numerous new churches to serve the city's fast-growing Catholic population. St. 
Clara Church (the original name for St. Gelasius) was founded in 1894 to serve the 
Woodlawn community, which was rapidly developing during the early 1890s. 

Woodlawn, bounded by E. 60 th St. and the Midway Plaisance to the north, Lake Michigan 
to the east, E. 67 th St. to the south, and S. King Dr. to the west, was an unprepossessing 
mix of low-lying marsh and heavily- wooded forest when European settlers began farming 
in the area in the 1850s. Despite the construction of an Illinois Central railroad station at 
63 rd St. in 1862, Woodlawn remained a sparsely-inhabited area until 1889, when rapidly 
growing Chicago annexed it as part of its acquisition of the larger Town of Hyde Park. 
The subsequent announcement of the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition, to be 
held in Jackson Park on the eastern edge of Woodlawn, coupled with the construction of 
an elevated railroad connecting the fair grounds with Chicago's downtown, encouraged 
the almost overnight development of the area with stores, apartment buildings, and hotels. 
In addition, the 1892 opening of the University of Chicago, located just north of 
Woodlawn in the neighboring Hyde Park community, provided an ongoing institutional 
anchor for the newly developing neighborhood. By 1894 when the fair was held, 
Woodlawn was an established middle-class community of 20,000 residents. 

As part of this larger neighborhood development, St. Clara Church was created as a 
"national" parish to serve German-speaking Catholics in Woodlawn and neighboring 
communities. Beginning in the 1850s, the Archdiocese of Chicago began organizing 
national parishes in neighborhoods where communities of non-English-speaking 
Catholics settled. In national parish churches, ethnic languages were spoken and old- 
world traditions were preserved in new- world surroundings. These churches often 
existed near "territorial" churches which served English-speaking Catholics of any 
background. Early important national parishes in Chicago included St. Patrick Church 
(700 W. Adams St.), founded for the Irish community on the Near West Side, and St. Michael 


Top: St. Gelasius Church is a gray limestone-clad church building in the Renaissance 
Revival style. Above: It is located on the southeast corner of S. Woodlawn Ave. and E. 
64th St. in the Woodlawn neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. 

§t. fiUara* ttlmrrfi 

Above: Originally known as 
St. Clara Church, the present- 
day St. Gelsius Church re- 
placed a smaller, simpler brick 
church-school building in 1923. 
Right: The cornerstone laying 
of the church building on 
October 14, 1923, was wit- 
nessed by 20,000 spectators. 

Church (455 W. Eugenie St.), which served the largely German Old Town neighborhood on the 
Near North Side. St. Clara was a national parish until 1910, when territorial boundaries were 
established for the parish. 

In its first 30 years of growth, St. Clara Church occupied three church buildings. The first 
temporary sanctuary was located in 1894 in a rented storefront near E. 69 th St. and S. 
Stony Island Ave. The following year a more permanent church building was constructed 
on the southeast corner of E. 64th St. and S. Woodlawn Ave. on property donated to the 
parish. This building, a modest two-story brick building housing a school on the first 
floor and a sanctuary above, served until 1923, when it was replaced by the present-day 
church building. The cornerstone laying for the new church took place on October 14, 
1923, witnessed by 20,000 spectators. The church's first Mass was celebrated on 
Christmas Day, 1 924, although the building was not dedicated until 1 927 (in a ceremony led by 
Chicago Archbishop George Cardinal Mundelein) or completely finished unitl 1928. 

The new St. Clara Church was clad of gray Indiana limestone on all elevations and 
designed in the Renaissance Revival style, based on 15 th - and 16 th -century Italian 
architecture. It is a "basilica-plan" church building, rectangular in overall form and with a high- 
ceilinged rectangular "nave," or sanctuary, as its main interior space. The building's slightly 
projecting main entrance is centered on the narrow facade, rising approximately 60 feet, that 
faces Woodlawn. Three primary entrances with wood-paneled doors are set within rectangular 
Classical surrounds decorated with egg-and-dart and leaf-and-dart Classical moldings. Above 
these doors are rectangular windows set within Renaissance-style surrounds flanked by low- 
relief scrolls and topped by triangular pediments. Both doors and windows are in turn set within 
large round arches placed between "engaged" columns, columns attached to the building wall. 
Ornamented with Composite capitals, these columns visually support a limestone Classical 
cornice and four parapet statues depicting four saints (St. Joachim, St. Anne, St. Joseph, and 
St. Gabriel), which stand in front of a round-arched parapet wall shielding from view the 
church's low-pitched gable roof. (All four of these saints are of historic importance to the 
Carmelite order, which had been given operation of the church by the Archdiocese of Chicago 
in 1 908.) Low-relief sculptures depicting both an image of the church itself and Catholic 
imagery are located over secondary entrances at either end of the Woodlawn facade. 

The north elevation facing 64 th St. utilizes similar Classical detailing, including tall 
round-arched windows, Composite pilasters, and cornice. A transept, or cross-axis, 
extends out towards the street with a large round-arched window set under a "broken 
pediment" formed by the cornice. A secondary entrance, detailed with paneled doors and 
a carved stone surround similar to those on the Woodlawn elevation, is located to the left 
of the transept window. A surviving portion of a historic wrought- iron fence and two 
limestone support pillars also remain in front of the 64 th St. facade. A strikingly tall, 
narrow bell tower rises approximately 120 feet at the building's corner, ornamented with 
round-arched openings, balustrades, and a variety of pilasters (Doric, Ionic, and 
Corinthian) arranged in a manner based on Italian Renaissance architectural practice. 

The church interior consisted of a large open nave originally wood-paneled with 

St. Gelasius Church was 
built in the Renaissance 
Revival style, based on the 
Classical architecture of 
Renaissance Italy. Right: 
The building's Woodlawn 
facade has changed very 
little since 1989, when this 
picture was taken. Below: 
The building is beautifully 
detailed with Classical 
columns, statues, cornice, 
and bell tower. 

Bottom and left: The 64th Street facade of St. 
Gelasius Church is also finely finished with gray 
limestone ornamented with Classical details. Be- 
low: A portion of a historic wrought-iron fence 
remains next to the building's 64th Street entrance. 




Circassian walnut and topped with a gently arched and coffered plaster ceiling. A fire in April 
1 976 destroyed most original interior details and ornament. (The interior is not defined as a 
significant historical and architectural feature for the purpose of this designation.) 

Renaissance Revival-Style Churches in Chicago 

Historically-derived architectural styles were an important defining visual characteristic 
of Chicago architecture during the 19 th and early 20 th centuries, and buildings designed in 
historic revivalist styles remain significant contributors to Chicago's architectural 
heritage. Classicism — the general architectural style first developed in ancient Greece and 
Rome and refined by European Renaissance and Baroque architects — plays an especially 
important role in Chicago's streetscapes, used to embellish many of the city's most 
prominent cultural, institutional, and religious buildings. 

Religious buildings, including churches, synagogues, mosques, and associated buildings 
such as rectories, convents, and parochial schools, are frequently noteworthy visual 
"landmarks" in Chicago neighborhoods. Their size and scale — often rising above 
consistently lower-rise residential and commercial buildings — and the elaborateness of 
their ornamental beauty are important components of the city's architectural heritage. 
Many residents closely associate neighborhoods with the religious buildings located 
there, and these buildings form important visual anchors within these neighborhoods. 

Beginning with the city's earliest churches and synagogues, Chicagoans have sought to 
create beautiful religious buildings in a variety of architectural styles. The earliest church 
buildings in Chicago, built in the 1 830s and 40s in the wake of the frontier settlement's founding, 
were mostly wooden buildings built in the Greek Revival style with austere Classical porticos 
and pointed steeples. Beginning in the 1 850s, the Gothic Revival style became popular due to 
its historic associations with the great medieval cathedrals built in Europe from the 12 th through 
1 5 th centuries. Through the rest of the late 1 9 th century and extending into the early 20 th 
century, brick and stone churches built in the Gothic Revival and other medieval-inspired styles 
such as Romanesque Revival remained popular. In addition, different religious faiths, and even 
ethnic groups within these faiths, often preferred certain architectural styles for their buildings. 

The popularity of classically-inspired church buildings, including those built in the Renaissance 
Revival style such as St. Gelasius, increased dramatically in the late 1 9 th and early 20 th centuries 
as America began increasingly enamored with grand Classical architecture based on 
Renaissance precedents. Buildings such as the brownstone row house complex for Henry 
Villard (1882-85) on New York's Madison Avenue, the Boston Public Library (1888-95), and 
Judson Memorial Church on New York's Washington Square ( 1 888-93) all by prominent New 
York architects McKim, Mead, & White, were early expressions of this change in architectural 
taste. In addition, the elaborate Classical style of the World's Columbian Exposition, held in 
Chicago in 1 894, was a watershed event in American architecture and generated great and 
widespread enthusiasm for Classical architectural styles throughout the United States. Such 
buildings reflect the flowering of cultural achievement, economic prosperity, and world influence 


The Renaissance Revival style, used 
for St. Gelasius Church, became 
popular in the United States in the late 
19th century for high-style religious, 
institutional, and government build- 
ings. Early influential examples of the 
style include: (above) the Boston 
Public Library and (left) New York's 
Judson Memorial Church, both begun 
in 1888 and designed by the presti- 
gious New York architectural firm of 
McKim, Mead, & White. Below: The 
popularity of the World's Columbian 
Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, 
was a watershed event in the spread of 
Classical architecture throughout the 
United States. 

In Chicago, Classical architectural styles, 
including the Renaissance Revival, were 
popular in the early 20th century for 
churches and synagogues. Along with St. 
Gelasius Church, prominent examples 
include: (below) the former K.A.M. Syna- 
gogue on S. Drexel Blvd.; (right) Holy Cross 
Church on W. 46th St.; and (bottom) St. Mary 
of the Angels Church on N. Hermitage Ave. 


in the late 1 9 th and early 20 th centuries that has been popularly called "the American 

The Renaissance Revival style was particularly important in the design of early 20 th - 
century church buildings. Both church hierarchies and architects increasingly saw Classical 
architecture as a significant style for churches and related religious buildings. 
Christianity's early history, rooted in the Classical culture of ancient Rome, and the great 
Christian churches of the 5 th and 6 th centuries that were the earliest grand architectural 
expressions of this religious faith made Classicism seem both rationally and emotionally 
appropriate for modern church buildings. Classicism's rebirth as the architectural style of 
choice for 1 5 th -century Italian Renaissance church buildings and its subsequent importance for 
church architecture during the next four centuries solidified these important associations with 

In Chicago, a number of significant churches and synagogues were built in the late 19 th 
and early 20 th centuries using Classical architectural styles. One of the oldest surviving of 
note is the First Church of Christ, Scientist (now Grant Memorial A.M.E. Church), 
located at 4017 S. Drexel Blvd. and built in 1897 to a design by Solon S. Beman. Other 
prominent examples include Holy Cross Church at 1736 W. 46 th St. (1913-15; Joseph 
Molitor); Corpus Christi Church at 4900 S. King Dr. (1914-16; Joseph W. McCarthy); St. 
Mary of the Angels Church at 1850 N. Hermitage Ave. (1914-20; Worthmann & 
Steinbach); and the former K.A.M. Synagogue now occupied by Operation PUSH, 
located at 4945 S. Drexel Blvd. (1923-24; Newhouse and Bernham). St. Gelasius Church 
is a fine example of this significant architectural movement, reflecting in its overall form 
and details this American interest and appreciation of Classical architecture. 

Architect Henry J. Schlacks 

The architect of St. Gelasius Church, Henry John Schlacks (1867-1938), was one of 

Chicago's most prominent church architects in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, a 
period of tremendous growth for the city's neighborhoods and the construction of 
churches. Born to German parents in Chicago, Schlacks attended St. Peter School before 
working as a draftsman for the noted architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan. He then 
received two years of architectural education at the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, America's premier architectural school in the late 19 th century, followed by 
extensive travel in Europe, observing first-hand historic buildings, including churches, 
that would inspire his later practice. Upon his return to Chicago, he entered into a 
partnership with fellow architect Henry Ottenheimer, also a former Adler & Sullivan 
draftsman, in 1891. Four years later in 1895, Schlacks began solo practice. 

Although Schlacks designed a variety of building types during his career, he soon became 
known as a specialist in ecclesiastical architecture. In "To Build the Catholic City," author 
Edward R. Kantowicz called Schlacks "the master of Catholic church architecture in Chicago." 
One of Schlacks' first jobs was as supervising architect for St. Martin Church at 5848 S. 


Princeton Ave. Built in 1 894-95 as a German national parish for the newly annexed Englewood 
community, St. Martin was a finely crafted, dramatically scaled church built in the style of 
German Gothic churches. Architect Louis A. Becker of Mainz, Germany, is credited with the 
overall conceptual design while Schlacks was the local architect of record, executing working 
drawings and supervising construction. 

This early work led to Schlacks receiving numerous commissions over the next decade 
for churches and other parish buildings for German national parishes in Chicago and its 
suburbs. He became noteworthy for the architectural quality and individuality of his 
designs. His first major church commission following the completion of St. Martin 
Church was St. Peter Church (1895), a simple brick church located in then rural Niles 
Center (now Skokie) that was modeled after small-scale Gothic churches in German 
towns. St. Paul Church (2234 S. Hoyne Ave.; 1897-98), although also built of brick and 
based on German Gothic precedents, was gigantic in scale, its twin spires towering over 
its low-scale, working-class Lower West Side community. St. Boniface Church (1348 W. 
Chestnut St.; 1902-04) and St. Anthony Church (2849 S. Wallace St.; 1913-15) were 
handsome, if smaller in scale, examples of fine brickwork often typical of the 
Romanesque Revival style. The former St. Henry Church (6360 N. Ridge Ave.; 1905- 
06; now Angel Guardian Croatian Catholic Church) is a spectacular red-brick and green- 
copper presence in the West Ridge community area, rising beside a small cemetery on an 
ancient ridge left behind by the prehistoric water levels of Lake Michigan. 

The quality of Schlacks' work with German national parish churches led in the 1910s and 
20s to opportunities to design church buildings for several non-German parishes. It was at this 
time that he also largely turned from medieval styles (Gothic and Romanesque Revivals) to the 
Renaissance Revival style, a style that he personally had favored since his post-MIT days 
exploring the Classical and Renaissance buildings of Rome. St. Mary of the Lake Church 
(4200 N. Sheridan Rd. ; 1 9 1 3- 1 7), a wealthy Uptown parish, received a buff-colored terra- 
cotta and brick church modeled in part after the Church of St. Prudentiana and the Basilica of 
St. Paul Outside the Wall, both in Rome. St. Adalbert Church (1656 W. 17 th St.; 1912-14), in 
the Pilsen neighborhood, and St. John of God Church (1238 W. 52 nd St.; 1918-20), 
overlooking Sherman Park in Chicago's Back-of-the- Yards community, were two 
predominantly Polish parishes that both received large-scale Classical church buildings with 
entrance colonnades and twin Baroque-style bell towers. St. Ignatius Church (6555 N. 
Glenwood Ave. ; 1916-17), founded by the Jesuit order, was located two blocks from the newly 
established Loyola University in the Rogers Park neighborhood. In its austere Classicism, gray 
limestone cladding, and single tall bell tower, St. Ignatius is closest among Schlacks' works to 
his later St. Gelasius Church. 

Schlacks' last Chicago church of note is St. Ita Church (5500 N. Broadway; 1924-27), a 
handsome French Gothic-inspired church in the North- Side Edgewater neighborhood. It 
is thought that Schlacks, in the design of St. Ita's, took heed of the wishes of Chicago 
Archbishop George Cardinal Mundelein, who favored the French Gothic style. 

Although Schlacks was best known for his Chicago church designs, he also designed 


Top left: Henry J. Schlacks, the 
architect of St. Gelasius Church, 
was one of Chicago's most signifi- 
cant designers of church and 
associated religious buildings. Two 
of Schlacks' earliest important 
churches were: (top right) St. 
Martin Church, located on S. 
Princeton in the Englewood neigh- 
borhood; and (left) St. Paul Church 
on Chicago's Lower West Side, 
both designed in the Gothic Revival 


i 7 ilL 

During the 1910s and 20s, Schlacks de- 
signed several elaborate church buildings 
besides St. Gelasius Church in the Renais- 
sance Revival style, including: (top left) St. 
Ignatius Church; (top right) St. Adalbert 
Church; and (above right) St. Mary of the 
Lake Church. (Above left) Schlacks' last 
major church, St. Ita Church, saw the 
architect return to Gothic architecture for 


other buildings of note, including school buildings for St. Boniface and St. Paul churches, 
buildings for St. Mary's of Nazareth Hospital on W. Division St. (demolished) and St. 
Anthony Hospital (original building demolished), and the Guardian Angel German 
Catholic Orphan Asylum (demolished). Outside Chicago, he designed a number of 
buildings, including St. Edmund Church in Oak Park (188 S. Oak Park Ave.; 1908-10); 
the Chapel at Mount St. Joseph College in Dubuque, Iowa; and railroad stations in 
Springfield, Ohio; Mt. Carmel, Illinois; Grand Junction, Colorado; and Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Later History 

St. Gelasius Church, under its original name of St. Clara, prospered for many years after 
its first religious service in 1924 and dedication in 1927. As the Woodlawn neighborhood 
began to change from predominantly white to African- American in the 1950s and 60s, 
however, the church began to see its membership rolls dwindle. In 1969, nearby St. Cyril 
Church, established in 1904 and also run by the Carmelite order, was merged with St. 
Clara to form St. Clara-St. Cyril Church, which then was housed in the former St. Clara 
Church building. 

In April 1976, a fire destroyed significant interior features of the building, including the 
sanctuary's wood-paneled walls, coffered ceiling, and other details, although the building was 
repaired and continued to be used. In 1 990 St. Clara-St. Cyril was merged with a nearby 
closing Catholic church, Holy Cross Church at 836 E. 65 th St. At that time the new 
consolidated parish was named St. Gelasius in honor of a late 5 th -century pope of African 
descent, Gelasius I, who ruled from A.D. 492 to 496. Citing declining parish membership, the 
Archdiocese of Chicago closed St. Gelasius Church in June 2002, and the building remains 

The St. Gelasius Church building was color-coded "orange" in the Chicago Historic Resources 
Survey. It also was discussed in George A. Lane's Chicago Churches and Synagogues . 

Criteria for Designation 

According to the Municipal Code of Chicago (Sect. 2-120-620 and -630), the Commission on 
Chicago Landmarks has the authority to make a preliminary recommendation of landmark 
designation for a building, structure, object, or district if the Commission determines it meets 
two or more of the stated "criteria for landmark designation," as well as possesses a significant 
degree of its historic design integrity. 

The following should be considered by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in determining 
whether to recommend that the St. Gelasius Church building be designated as a Chicago 


Criterion 1: Critical Part of the City's History 

Its value as an example of the architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social, or other 
aspect of the heritage of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois or the United States. 

• The St. Gelasius Church building exemplifies Chicago 's contribution to the late 1 9th- 
and early 20th-century architectural revival of grandly-scaled Classicism, commonly 
referred to as the "American Renaissance," popularized by the World Columbian 
Exposition held in Chicago in 1 893 . 

• The St. Gelasius Church building exemplifies the critical role that churches and other 
religious institutions played in the history and development of Chicago's neighborhoods 
in the late 1 9th and early 20th centuries. 

Criterion 4: Important Architecture 

Its exemplification of an architectural type or style distinguished by innovation, rarity, 
uniqueness, or overall quality of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship. 

The St. GalasiiB Gxoxhta^ 

airhitectuie and of a kuildiirj t^pe of iiportarc^ 


Thehildbngis a significant andhighKjHlity e>gnple of ateBissancei^/i^al-styie 
buildiig^ anaiiMtecturalstyleof inpoitance to t±e history of Qnicag^ 

The building is distinguished by handsome craftsmanship and use of materials, including 
limestone, used for particularly fine Classical details such as tall engaged columns, 
Composite capitals, low-relief and free-standing sculpture, and bell tower. 

Criterion 5: Important Architect 

Its identification as the work of an architect, designer, engineer, or builder whose 
individual work is significant in the history or development of the City of Chicago, the 
State of Illinois, or the United States. 

Henry J. Schlacks, the architect of the St. Gelasius Church building, was one of 
Chicago's most prolific and important architects of churches and related religious 
buildings in the late 1 9 th and early 20 th centuries, designing over two dozen in Chicago 
and its suburbs. 

Besides St. Gelasius, Schlacks designed many important church buildings for the 
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, including St. Paul, St. Mary of the Lake, St. 
Adalbert, St. Ignatius, St. Henry, St. Boniface, St. John of God, and St. Ita churches. 


The St. Gelasius Church building is finely and elaborately ornamented with Classical 
decoration. (Above) Its Woodlawn facade has elaborate paneled doors set within round 
arches framed by massive Composite columns. (Top left) A detail of the Renaissance-style 
details found around windows. (Top right) A detail of the building's cornice and acanthus- 
leaf-ornamented column capitals. 


(Top right) St. Gelasius's bell 
tower is detailed with a variety 
of Classical pilasters, including 
Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. 
The building's facade is finely 
ornamented with Classical 
sculptures, including: (left top 
and bottom) statues of saints, 
and (bottom right) a stone 
medallion carved with an 
image of the church. 


Criterion 7: Unique Visual Feature 

Its unique location or distinctive physical appearance or presence representing an 
established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood, community, or the City of 

With its distinctive 120-f oct-high bell ta/\er> St . Gelasius Church has been an 
established and familiar visual feature in the Vfoodlawn caimjnity since its ccnstnrticn 
in the 1920s. 

Integrity Criteria 

The integrity of the proposed landmark must be preserved in light of its location, design, 
setting, materials, workmanship and ability to express its historic community, 
architectural or aesthetic interest or value. 

St. Gelasius Church possesses excellent exterior physical integrity, displaying through its siting, 
scale and overall design its historic relationship to the surrounding area. It retains its historic 
overall exterior form and almost all exterior materials and detailing, including historic doors and 
carved-stone Classical columns, door and window surrounds, low-relief and free-standing 
sculpture, and bell tower. 

Changes to the building's exterior include newer metal front step railings, the addition of a 
wheelchair-accessible ramp on the Woodlawn Ave. facade, and the loss of most of a historic 
wrought-iron fence along the building's 64 th St. elevation. 

The church's interior was gutted by a fire in April 1976 and does not retain significant 
historic features or detailing on the interior. The interior is not considered a significant 
historical or architectural feature for the purpose of this designation. 

Significant Historical 

and Architectural Features 

Whenever a building, structure, object, or district is under consideration for landmark 
designation, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks is required to identify the 
"significant historical and architectural features" of the property. This is done to enable 
the owners and the public to understand which elements are considered most important to 
preserve the historical and architectural character of the proposed landmark. 

Based on its evaluation of the St. Gelasius Church building, the Commission recommends that 
the significant features be identified as: 

all exterior elevations, including rooflines, of the building; and 

the remaining portions of the historic wrought iron-and-limestone fence along E. 64th St. 


** -* 


k it, i 


jfjift m 

t - 1 


■ 1 



The St. Gelasius Church building retains its historic exterior physical integrity, including its 
original site, overall form, and the majority of details. (Top) The building at the time of its 
dedication in 1927. (Above) The buillding in 1989. 


(Top left) The St. Gelasius Church building in 1961. (Top right and above) The building in 
August 2003. The St. Gelasius Church building, with its distinctive and prominent bell 
tower, is an important visual anchor for the Woodlawn neighborhood. 


The designation does not include the attached gray limestone rectory building located south of 
the church building at 64 1 5 S. Woodlawn Ave. nor the attached red brick school building 
located behind the rectory building. 

Selected Bibliography 

Craven, Wayne. American Art, History and Culture. Madison, Wis.: Brown & 

Benchmark, 1994. 
"Four South Side Catholic Parishes Will Close By June 30, 2002," Archdiocese of Chicago 

press release, March 14, 2002. 
Geraniotis, Roula M. "German Architects in Nineteenth-Century Chicago," Ph.D. dissertation, 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1985. 
Hamil, Sean D. "Mass, memories at 2 churches," Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2002. 
"Henry J. Schlacks [obituary]," Illinois Society of Architects Bulletin, v. 22 (Feb.-March 

Kantowicz, Edward R. "The Ethnic Church," In Ethnic Chicago, A Multicultural 

Portrait. 4 th ed., ed. by Melvin G Holli and Peter d' A. Jones. Grand Rapids, Michigan: 

William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1995. 
Kantowicz, Edward R. "To Build the Catholic City," Chicago History, v. XIV, no. 3 (Fall 

1985), pp. 4-27. 
Kervick, Francis W. Architects in America of Catholic Tradition. Rutland, VT: Charles E. 

Turtle Co., 1962. 
Koenig, Harry C, S.T.D. A History of the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago. 

Chicago: Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 1980. 
Lane, George A., S.J. Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage. 

Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1981. 
Local Community Fact Book, Chicago Metropolitan Area. Chicago: Chicago Fact Book 

Consortium, 1984. 
Martin, Michelle. "Parish Closings: A Year Later," Catholic New World, August 3, 2003. 
New World, April 14, 1900. 

Roth, Leland. McKim, Mead, & White, Architects. New York: Harper & Row, 1983 
Saint Clara Church. Dedication, St. Claras Carmelite Church, 1927. Chicago: St. Clara 

Church, 1927. 
Saint Clara Church. Golden Jubilee, 1894-1944, St. Claras Carmelite Church. Chicago: 

St. Clara Church, 1944. 
"Saying Farewell; Parishes close or merge, church goes on," Catholic New World, June 9, 

Schlacks, Henry J. The Work of Henry John Schlacks, Ecclesiologist. Chicago: privately 

printed, 1903. 
Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1 780: A Guide to the Styles. Cambridge, 

Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1969. 
Wilson, Richard Guy. McKim, Mead, and White, Architects. New York: Rizzoli, 1983. 
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Architects (Deceased). Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1970. 


city of chicago 

Richard M. Daley, Mayor 

Department of Planning and Development 

Alicia Mazur Berg, Commissioner 

Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner for Landmarks 

Project Staff 

Terry Tatum, research, writing, photography, and layout 
Eleanor Gorski, photography 
Brian Goeken, editing 

Special thanks to Terri Yoder, Chicago Public Library Special Collections and 
Preservation Services, for her help in the preparation of this report. 


Department of Planning and Development, Landmarks Division: cover, pp. 3, 6 (bottom), 7, 

17,18,21 (top right & bottom). 
From St. Clara Carmelite Church, Golden Jubilee: p, 4. 
From Wilson, McKim, Mead, and White, Architects', p. 9 (top & bottom). 
From Roth, McKim, Mead, & White, Architects', p. 9 (middle). 
Chicago Historic Resources Survey: p. 6, 10, 14, 20 (bottom). 
From St. Clara Carmelite Church, Dedication: p. 13 (top left), 20 (top), 22. 
From Schlacks, The Work of Henry John Schlacks, Ecclesiologist: p. 13 (top right, bottom). 
Chicago Historical Society, Prints & Photographs Collection: p. 21 (top left). 

Din ..lli if-. 

ST. CLARA'S Cw w lij it ClNl Ki=H 

>l>.l IHH T11VI1 II *in 

The cover of the 1927 dedication booklet for St. 
Gelasius Church (then known as St. Clara Church, 



David Mosena, Chairman 

Larry W. Parkman, Vice Chairman 

John W. Baird, Secretary 

Alicia MazurBerg 

Lisa Willis-Brown 

Phyllis Ellin 

Michelle R. Obama 

Seymour Persky 

Ben Weese 

The Commission is staffed by the 

Chicago Department of Planning and Development 

33 N. LaSsalle Street, Suite 1600, Chicago, IL 60602 

312-744-3200; 744-2958 (TTY) 

http : //www. city of Chicago . org/landmarks 

Printed September 2003; revised November 2003